CD Packaging #1

I am currently working on a new CD design project for singer/songwriter Jon Lawrence. You may recall other projects I have done for Jon in recent years – click on the thumbnails below to see more of these.


In our initial meeting I was, as usual, given a disc to listen to whist working and we discussed a few things to establish a starting point for the design. This is a great thing about working with musicians, Jon especially so, as he brings vague notions and impressions rather than direct instructions. So, no set format, no theme, no symbolism. Except for one element; Jon mentioned that the album was much more immediate, more ‘up-front’ and raw.

We both said that the standard jewel case did not seem appropriate and recalled previous conversations about the expense of those nice brown recycled card sleeves – not so much the sleeves themselves, but more in the printing and assembly. I suggested that ready-made packs could be purchased and the whole thing could be letterpressed! We discussed this as a possibility, with a linocut design in two colours – making each sleeve a limited edition print also! Jon seemed keen, so I set about putting a couple of  visuals together to show him how this approach may look:

And I also showed a few examples of linocut carving styles:

Over the next day or so I began thinking about this and wondered if I’d been a little too enthusiastic over the letterpress approach; I was keen on the idea, but didn’t want only have this approach on the table. Plus, there were more limitations with this approach than I’d first considered.

I was sketching in my notebook whilst occupying a little ‘dead’ time and hit upon the idea of constructing the pack from a single sheet, and began exploring origami style folds, trying to make a self locking enclosure for the disc. This got stupidly complicated very quickly. I needed to simplify.

Japanese stab binding is a simple, effective and visually attractive form of binding – I have used it many times in my bookbinding projects:


So I began by using the general dimensions from existing card pack and digipack formats and some oddments of card and paper. In this first sample, the slot for the disc was not tight enough and it slips out too easily.

This just looks right though – the spine is very slim, but that is something that can be worked around…

And it is the same size as regular card packs.

The second test was a little better, with a snug disc slot and accurate measurements. I also tried using a thicker thread, but although this looks good, it is a bit of a pig to work with. Using the normal bookbinding thread, this simple method takes about three minutes to complete. With the thicker thread that turns into ten minutes as there is much more ‘faffing’ around trying not to sew through the thread and get the thread to lay well on each side.

I deliberately kept to a three hole/five station model to minimise production time. There are more complex and decorative versions of this technique that would be cool but impractical.

Time to get thinking about the graphics…


2 thoughts on “CD Packaging #1

  1. Nice! Though some of my binding styles wouldn’t add *too* much more to the production time… 😉 The thicker thread would pose a problem though.

    1. Hi Becca – I agree with you about not add too much to the binding time, but I guess I am considering the overall production time for a hundred examples – I will be cutting, scoring, folding, assembling, piercing AND sewing. A hundred times.

      We have recently decided to use white linen thread too, so the sewing is not too visually dominant – it will be one of those elements that will only be really appreciated when you are actually holding the thing.

      Or maybe I’m just a little mad!

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